The Menace of Mechanical Music


The following illustrations are from John Philip Sousa's article in Appleton's Magazine, "The Menace of Mechanical Music," September 1906



Appleton's Magazine and John Philip Sousa's article "The Menace of Mechanical Music," reprinted by The Talking Machine World, August 1906




Aristotle and the Automated Harp (ca. 350 BCE)

Aristotle circa 350 BCE saw the possibility of an automated harp in the context of how mankind could be freed up by automation to pursue wisdom and not on drudgery tasks of daily life.

In the Politics (c. 350 BCE) Aristotle describes the condition where "each (inanimate) instrument could do its own work, at the word of command or by intelligent anticipation, like the statues of Daedalus or the tripods made by Hephaestus, of which Homer relates that

“Of their own motion they entered the conclave of Gods on Olympus” as if a shuttle should weave of itself, and a plectrum should do its own harp playing.


An Edison ad presents Sousa's "unwilling tribute" to the Phonograph

Edison Phonograph Monthly, January 1907


"All good music is patriotic"

The Talking Machine World Supplement, November 1917


Courtesy Lynn Johnston, December 22, 2021

Hearing a song played over and over can be annoying to those who don't like the song. Repetition of a song is also one of the ways music can be embedded in the brain, sometimes known as an earworm.

See Our Song for a Friends of the Phonograph story about how a recorded song can remain as a memory long after "our old record player gave up and died."